Retrospective: Online Notes (Phase I)

Session 17: Smoothing Out the Wrinkles

Phase I of the Online Notes project is successfully completed – though not without valuable learning lessons. The product of this project is which allows the company to present production notes to the public (a vital part of Cryptiquest’s solution for finding, building, and maintaining an audience).

Phase II of this project will connect this site to an audience.

Objective Test

The system must connect to an online community. Phase 2
The system must be able to accommodate advanced formatting, including lists, indents, an tables.  Pass
The system must allow session-based posts. Pass
The system must feature a way for posts to be linked together under the same project. Pass
Ensure the system allows for Cryptiquest, LLC to maintain rights to all content posted for and by Cryptiquest, LLC.  Pass


The core quality of this project was “transition”. Inventing a new system from scratch based on a vague understanding of needs isn’t easy and there were some mistakes along the way. An unintended product of this project was seizing the opportunity to learn from such mistakes – something that was not formally happening before this project.

Session Outline

This project started with a need: to somehow use frequently produced project notes as a way to connect with an otherwise distant audience. The project greatly increased in scope as it became apparent that the solution could also increase work quality and content helpful for other indie developers.

The first session focused on creating goals and objectives. While this was fairly straightforward, in hindsight this should have started with defining the “Need”, the “Obstacle” and the proposed “Solution”. In addition, this need should tie back to Cryptiquest values and/or missions to ensure efforts support the big picture. I believe this project does support the big picture but as of now, that vision isn’t defined to incorporate this project.

The second session was used to determine the tools and methods for measuring the success of the objectives. In later projects, this step was combined with the first step with (what seems to be) no change to quality.

The third session was set to find project deliverables. For the most part these deliverables were produced as prescribed but the method may evolve over time. There is an opportunity to create a guideline for project management that could standardize repeated steps.

The fourth session was dedicated to establishing a working schedule – adding time estimates to each deliverable. This was unfinished due to a part that was too unpredictable. This probably should have been an indicator that there were multiple phases to this project. I plodded through, however, and finished this task in the eight session.

The fifth session was a recap of the research performed regarding the system. This was the first portion of production. The sixth session recapped the design and implementation of the system and the seventh session recapped the content backfill and system updates. Moving forward, I’d prefer not to have recaps, instead notating these live as it is not easy to remember all the steps and decisions. Personally, it feels like taking a step backward (working on something in the past) and a bit disingenuous.

The ninth session and the tenth session both focused on refining the system. These were the first sessions created in the system that felt real. The ninth session focused on analyzing the site for upgrades while the tenth session recapped those changes. For some reason (perhaps it was the images), the recap seemed acceptable here.

The eleventh session was about the plan for marketing this project – and it felt off. This probably had to do with me not being comfortable with marketing but might have had more to with the fact that marketing should have been its own project. The similarity between this and the analysis is that they required research – perhaps this should be a factor in what determines a project phase? This session also got everything wrong. Instead of establishing a goal for the launch announcement, it set up the need for the project.

The twelfth session and thirteenth session were project planning sessions dedicated to determining objectives/tools and deliverables (respectively). These are further indicators that this should have been its own project. In addition, these stemmed from the misguided goal in the eleventh session.

These problems were addressed in the sixteenth session mini-retrospective of the launch. This was a productive analysis of a failed project and the lessons learned (etc.) have been added to this retrospective.

The fourteenth session sought the creation of the press release (and seemed okay) while the fifteenth session focused on the creation of the social media materials. This session was fun to do though it reads like a train wreck in hindsight (again, the problems were addressed in the sixteenth session).

The seventeenth session was used to assess the project and how to pivot it based on separating the marketing portion from the production portion. It also featured the creation of the final site content.

Lessons Learned

  1. Clearly define the Need, Obstacle, and Solution before tackling Goals and Objectives.
  2. Tie each project into Cryptiquest values and/or missions.
  3. Determine Goals, Objectives, and Tools for Measuring Success all into one session.
  4. Mitigate recaps as much as possible (retrospectives, are okay).
  5. The task of research seems to mark new phase.
  6. Perform a “trial run” to test your marketing approach.
  7. Know the actual goal of your marketing message.
  8. Write out an hour-by-hour marketing schedule.

Lessons Addressed

The first lesson could be solved with a Guide to Project Management – which would outline the steps to take, the tools to use, references, etc. for various types of projects. This would include instructions for defining the Need, Obstacle, and Solution as well as how to define the Goals and Objectives.

The second lesson could also be incorporated into the Guide to Project Management, as Cryptiquest values and missions could be part of the instructions. This will require a well defined list of values and missions.

The third lesson is easily solved through rules in the Guide to Project Management.

The fourth lesson could also be addressed in the Guide to Project Management, specifically if there was a section about recaps – when they are okay and how to handle recaps that are not okay (mistakes happen).

The fifth lesson addresses the need for a project definition in the Guide to Project Management, including the phases.

Addressing the sixth lesson, I believe a fix could be the creation of a Marketing Guide – which lists which outlets Cryptiquest has, their purpose and under what circumstances, approaches, and timings they should be used to disseminate information. This could include technological limitations and standard protocols (including how to test and pinpoint the goal of the message).

Regarding the seventh lesson, the goal of this campaign should have been to raise awareness of the project. I missed that this time but all is not lost. I can release a new message that explains all that stuff – linking to the PRESS RELEASE. You may not know about this thing, but I created a press release back in session 14 and figured I’d announce it to the world a week later. So, that’s where the education can come into play.

As for the eighth lesson, I could include a blank schedule with suggestions for the next multi-post campaign as part of the Marketing Guide.

Action Items

  • Create a Cryptiquest Guide to Project Management
    • Define what a project is and project terminology
    • Include instructions for how to define the need, obstacle, solution, goal, objectives, and methods for success – and how they tie to Cryptiquest values and missions.
    • Session instructions, including when to use recaps, how to use recaps, etc.
  • Official List of Cryptiquest Values and Missions
  • Create Marketing Guide
    • Inventory Cryptiquest media outlets
    • Outline the suggested steps and conditions for each type of message
    • Create ways to identity the goal of the message
    • Create protocol for testing the feasibility of the approach
    • Create a blank schedule for multi-post campaigns.
  • Create new campaign for the Site Launch
    • Use press release as the action item
    • Explain purpose of site and that project updates will be on their way.
Session 17: Smoothing Out the Wrinkles